Feast • April 23
Church • East Fairfield
The former St. George Church was a mission church in Bakersfield but was closed and combined with St. Anthony Church in East Fairfield in 1924. The present church was built in 1940 by former pastor Father William Tennien who also built St. Mark Church in Burlington. It took 82 working days for the stone church to be built by the parishioners. The sanctuary floor is laid with Swanton red marble as well as verd antique marble. The church also is home to statues of St. George and St. Anthony that were carved by parishioners.
Some of the more intriguing stories about this patron of England are not substantiated by fact, but that doesn’t mean that the legends surrounding St. George have any less power on the imagination. In fact, the most common depiction of the saint, in which he is slaying a dragon, persists even though it derives from a 12th-century Italian fable.
What we can be fairly certain of is that George was a Christian, probably a soldier, who was martyred on April 23, 303 AD, during the time of the Emperor Diocletian. Although the emperor hated Christians, it is said that he was reluctant to have George killed because he was a friend of the young man’s father. Despite pleading by the emperor, George remained steadfast in his beliefs, reportedly giving away all his possessions to the poor before going to his own execution.
Interestingly, because of his bravery, St. George also is revered among Muslims. Although his father can be reliably traced back to Cappadocia, it is believed his mother was Palestinian from Lydda, now Lod, in Israel. Because of this connection to the Middle East, and because he was a man who stood steadfastly by his beliefs, even at the cost of his own life, he is respected by both Christians and Muslims who live near the area where it is believed his mother was born.
The colorful legends which grew up about him often revolve around his standing as a man-of-arms, however, the story of the dragon, for instance, comes from a tale in which St. George supposedly rescued a king’s daughter from being slain by a serpent. As an example of the ideal of medieval knighthood, St. George became the patron of the Knights of the Garter, more properly known as the Knights of the Order of St. George. St. George’s Chapel, located in Windsor Castle, is its Mother Church and a special service for members of the order still takes place in the chapel every June.
Patron of soldiers as well as England, St. George’s feast day is celebrated on April 23.